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Chris Pasin: Detour Ahead

Warren Allen By

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Trumpeter Chris Pasin tried to move on from jazz, but now he's back. He's a graduate of New England Conservatory's prestigious jazz program and played with many of the greats, before leaving jazz for several years. To celebrate his return, and perhaps give a glimpse of more good things to come he's brought out a never before released gem from 1987 titled Detour Ahead, featuring him alongside a band of Dannie Richmond, Rufus Reid, Benny Green, and Steve Slagle. The results are so vibrant and alive, that it's hard not to wonder why they fell into the vaults in the first place.

Pasin's trumpet tone is warm and clear, and his playing is grounded strongly in lyrical, adroit hard bop. The set mostly focuses on his compositions, which often walk teetering, angular patterns that still ground themselves strongly in classic jazz melody.

The beautiful "It Doesn't Matter Now" bears scars of pain like a good ballad should, with cutting pulls of arco bass and drawn out horn harmonies. Suggesting Mingus with a swinging double time section, and the bittersweet angularity of Monk, the composition allows for burning solos. First comes Green, who almost hesitates, gathering his powers before digging into the keys. Then Pasin carves a dirty, dark, and lovely statement over sparse accompaniment.

Drummer Dannie Richmond, often explosively understated throughout his career with the Mingus band, sounds more restrained here, a year before his death. Some tracks seem nearly without drums, save for a smattering of hi-hat and toms, but this leaves a lot of space for everyone else to fill up, and they're up to the task. Green and Reid form a hypnotic tandem that brings an edge of nuance and tradition into the music.

"Jackhammer" is hot, hot fun. It's interesting to hear how the horns' harmonies reflect a distinctly eighties jazz sound, but solos from Pasin's energetic trumpet and Slagle's bright, loquacious alto, transcend time with a sheer, breathless excitement. "Island" brings in a touch of exotic Braziliana. Slagle takes a dizzyingly pretty turn on flute. Pasin mines the burnished golden sound of his mute for gems of Latin and bebop. Green's solo, with the sensitive bass playing of Reid driving him on, reaches new heights along the brighter side of the piano.

All this is enough to make the listener excited for what else Pasin has in store. He's setting the bar high for himself here. There's also a certain prophetic quality in the title: when he recorded this, did Pasin know that his own jazz career was headed for a somewhat substantial detour of its own? Whatever the case, it's good to have him back.

Track Listing: Lost and Found; It Doesn't Matter Now; Jackhammer; Detour Ahead; The Light at the End of the Tunnel; Enigma; My Romance; Island.

Personnel: Chris Pasin: trumpet; Dannie Richmond: drums; Rufus Reid: bass; Benny Green: piano; Steve Slagle: alto sax, soprano sax, flute.

Title: Detour Ahead | Year Released: 2009 | Record Label: H2O Records

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